2019 saw the rise of Mayank Agarwal as an international batsman. After putting in years of hardwork in the domestic circuit, the batsman from Karnataka may have made his debut in late 2018, but it was last year where he really established himself, finishing as the sixth-leading run-getter in Tests with 754 runs from eight matches.
“It has been a great learning curve. There have been some tremendous experiences. To be honest, when I got picked into the Test squad or played my first match, I never ever thought about what I needed to do. I just took it one game at a time, put my head down and gave it my best shot each time, every single day. It feels great to contribute to the team. More importantly, what’s most satisfying is that India are the No. 1 team in the world,” Mayank told Times of India.
“It’s difficult to point out one biggest takeaway. To be able to go out and play in India colours has obviously been special. We’ve had some great wins and I carry those memories with me. I’ve really enjoyed my year as an international cricketer.”
Mayank has had a wonderful start to his Test career, scoring 872 runs from nine matches with an average of 67.07. In those, he’s struck three fifties and three centuries, two of which he converted into a double hundred. His knock of 215 against South Africa at Visakhapatnam in October, was followed by another one – 243 against Bangladesh as India completed secured wins in both series.
On being asked to pick his favourite knock, Mayank replied: “”Both. Honestly, I’m not a man for comparisons. Each innings had its own importance. When I got my first double hundred, it was obviously special. Then to get the next double-hundred in the next series was terrific. To me, it reiterated the fact that when I’m set, I’m scoring big and contributing to the team’s success.”
In Mayank and Rohit Sharma, India have found a formidable opening combination. With Prithvi Shaw out injured and Shikhar Dhawan no longer a permanent feature in Tests for India, Rohit and Mayank have already begun their respective chapters as India opener with pomp. The first time they opened together – the first Test against South Africa, the pair put on 317 runs for the opening wicket, with Rohit registering a century as well..
“It was the first time I was opening with him. We just spoke about plans, we had plans for each bowler,” Mayank said. “We did not overthink, instead we took it as it came and went ball by ball. It was great to have such a big opening partnership (317 against South Africa in Visakhapatnam) with him in our first opening stand. I enjoyed playing with him and watching the way he dominated the spinners. From the non-striker’s end, you could see the bowlers were struggling. The good balls were being hit for four and the bad balls were anyways being punished.”
Despite his success in Test cricket, Mayank had to wait for his turn in ODIs. He was named as replacement for the injured Vijay Shankar in India’s World Cup squad but never got a game. However, 50-over cricket is something Mayank had excelled at, as he went back to playing for Karnataka and helped the side win the Vijay Hazare Trophy and retain the Syed Mushtaq Ali title.
“Understanding your game becomes very important when you switch formats. Knowing when to take risks and reading situations is the key. When you are playing 50 overs, there is more time than you think. The risk can be a lot more calculative because you have 300 balls to play. That doesn’t happen in T20s. The most essential thing is to understand your game and see what shots you can play on that particular wicket and what you cannot play. Then just having the mental discipline to keep doing that,” the India opener stated.
“I think it is about winning tournaments, playing more matches and contributing wherever you go. It keeps me going. Yes, I have thought about breaks, but each time I have come out of a Test series, Karnataka is playing either a quarterfinal or a semifinal of a domestic competition. So obviously you want to be a part of the state side for which you played from your younger days and contribute as much as you can in whatever way. That said, all the while you have to know how much your body can take. So, you push yourself only as much as you can.”